HCWH Europe at international HPH conference

Members of the Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe team gave presentations at the 26th International Conference on Health Promoting Hospitals and Health Services (HPH). As co-organiser, HCWH Europe also organised the workshop Healthy food and well-being in healthcare.

Sustainable food - Paola Hernandez Olivan, HCWH Europe Food Project Officer

Food is our primary source of energy, and the food we consume can be seen as an indicator of our health and well-being. Quite a few hospitals and healthcare facilities (e.g. care centres) do not give enough attention to the quality of the food they serve in spite of the fact that food is vital in the process of patients’ recovery. The approach to food is integral in avoiding malnutrition, decreasing food wastage, and achieving considerable environmental, social, and economic savings. Hospitals and the wider healthcare sector has the responsibility to not only provide high quality food to patients, meeting their needs and preferences, but to also contribute to the health, well-being, and satisfaction of hospitals’ staff.

Healthy food and well-being in healthcare workshop

HCWH Europe’s Deputy Director, Grazia Cioci moderated this workshop where experiences and best practices of linking healthy food and well-being to the healthcare sector in Austria, United Kingdom, and Taiwan were presented.

Katharina Roth, Research assistant at the Bio Forschung Austria and member of EcoBuy Programm Working Group Food of the City of Vienna, introduced the importance of enjoying your food and the Austrian culture behind it through its music and art. 

She also gave insights into the results of the Green Public Food Procurement in European Cities questionnaire. Vienna is included as one of the best examples for introducing some obligatory and optional criteria in creating “a naturally good dish” - one that uses organic, seasonal, and regional produce, using only small portions of meat, and putting attention on its aesthetic.

Dr Susannah McWilliam, Manager of the Food for Life Hospital Leaders Programme of the Soil Association in United Kingdom, presented the framework they use for enhancing care, supporting rehabilitation, and improving health by focusing in five main areas:

  1. Catering quality
  2. Patient food experience
  3. Staff health and well-being
  4. Food retail and vending
  5. Community and partnership

Approximately 1.5 million people work in the UK National Health System (NHS), representing the 5th largest workforce in the world. The majority of the hospitals and healthcare facilities send mixed messages about consuming more healthy food, whilst junk food is promoted for staff working night shifts. In recent years however, policy has experienced a shift and now all NHS hospitals must develop and maintain a food and drink strategy that includes

  • The nutrition and hydration needs of patients
  • Healthier eating for the whole hospital community, especially staff
  • Sustainable procurement of food and catering services

It was recently reported however, that some still  do not apply these standards, and improvements need to be made to food quality, sustainability, customer feedback, tender contracts, and economic resources. You can read Dr. McWilliam's thoughts on the workshop in her blog post.

Dr Tina Chiu, Researcher at the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation in Taiwan, explained the impact of what we eat from an environmental and health point of view. One of the products with the greatest impact on our health and environment is meat, especially red meat. Reducing or substituting animal protein for plant protein is associated with lower mortality rates and greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.

Tzu Chi Hospitals provide an example of how encouraging hospitals to offer menus with less animal-based products can impact on patients’ recovery. They have also organised education programs intended for both patients and staff, educating the whole community on the benefits and misconceptions around vegetarianism. The program also teaches how to incorporate proteins from plant-based products into our diets in a tasty and creative way. The Tzu Chi Hospital research team also analyses and investigates the effect of vegetarian diets on our health; lowered risk of stroke, gout, or diabetes, and lower medical expenditures.

How to get healthier food into hospitals and healthcare facilities is still a question that needs to be clearly answered, but several great initiatives already exist as Grazia Cioci explained during her presentation Reducing food waste through sustainable procurement: Case studies from the European healthcare sector, which included extracts from HCWH Europe’s latest publication Fresh, healthy, and sustainable food: Best practices in European healthcare. In this session, experiences of applying healthy standards in the healthcare sector (particularly in vending machines), from Austria, Australia, Israel, and Taiwan were highlighted.

Applying behavioural and managerial changes to promote healthy eating environments have proven to be feasible and valuable whether leadership and commitment exist, and all stakeholders find mutual interest for creating this supply system for healthy food.

Climate - Ana-Christina Gaeta, HCWH Europe Cliamte & Resources Policy Officer

On Friday 14th of April, Ana-Christina Gaeta gave a presentation in a session entitled Environmentally friendly healthcare, she presented hospitals in the HCWH Europe network that are actively working to reduce their institution’s environmental footprint. 

To illustrate the relationship between climate change, health, and the healthcare sector, Ana-Christina explained the different ways that climate change is having an impact on the health of the European population, the strain that climate change can pose on health system’s ability to provide care, and the different ways that hospital’s carbon intensive activities are contributing to climate change, and in turn contributing to making people sick. 

Ana-Christina’s presentation Reducing healthcare’s climate footprint: Lessons from European hospitals, showcased case studies of European hospitals with impressive climate change mitigation policies.

Region Skåne in Sweden has done impressive work by implementing ambitious regional renewable energy targets. To reach their goals, the region has built a wind turbine plant that provides 40% of the energy used in healthcare, and in 2016 it finalised the construction of the Forensic Psychiatric Centre, which is the largest passive house in Sweden (running on 100% renewable energy). The healthcare sector of Region Skåne is also reducing their climate footprint through green procurement of products and green innovation.

Klinikum Neukölln in Berlin (part of the Vivantes Hospital Network of Germany) is known as Vivantes’ “Energy Saving Hospital” for its combination of energy saving measures, such as the implementation of a rooftop-photovoltaic system and low investment measures such as behaviour change programs e.g. replacing old lighting with high efficiency bulbs, and strict monitoring of air conditioning in low-transit areas. Since 2003, the hospital has avoided over 100,000 tonnes of CO2, saved 400,000 MWh of energy, and approximately €23 million in energy costs.

With the aim of inspiring other hospitals to follow the footsteps of the hospital’s being presented, the presentation closed with an invitation to hospitals to reduce their own emissions, and to join the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) network.